Like all other talents and skills honed over time, selling something is truly an art form that takes practice to improve upon (and ultimately master). A long-standing company can use its lengthy track record as an advantage for presenting expertise, overwhelmingly positive customer service or superior products. That’s all very helpful if you’re Coca Cola, Microsoft, or even Quicken Loans, but what about a start up? Without the credibility of the big guys, it might seem like you need to bend over backward just to get in the door. Stop doing that – you’ll hurt your back and your chances of making a sale. People do business with others they like and trust, so start with that.

Use an authoritative tone with the gatekeeper. When someone calls my office, they first talk to my assistant – she makes the determination if the caller gets through to me directly, gets a voicemail taken on his behalf to pass along, or gets instructions otherwise (without ever reaching me). I’m no different from any other venture capitalist or business decision-maker for that matter: gatekeepers are entry points for your information to get passed along to the end person you’re trying to contact. If you call and sound like an out-of-breath puppy that just caught a ball, bringing it back excitedly to its owner, it shows. Polite voicemail taken – and chances are, no call back. Same result if you call and sound desperate. Instead, talk to this person like you’re calling to dispute a bill with your attorney. “Hello, is Josh there? Thanks.” “May I ask who is calling?” “Sure, it’s Sue with NewCo.” Your chances are a lot better to at least have an assistant perk up. That’s step one.

Use that same tone in the meeting. If you had a vending machine that spit out a $5 bill for every $1 inserted, you wouldn’t need to go through every feature or do it in a way that’s over the top. It’s simple – you have something that will help your customer, so they need what you’re offering. Nobody likes a brown noser and everyone wants to feel like you’re on the same page as them, so don’t act differently and sit down in the meeting to make your pitch. Personally I don’t like being called “Mr. Linkner”: it’s uncomfortable. If your customer is a first-name person, use that cue and don’t be overly formal. Speak clearly about what it is that you’re providing, why it’s going to help their business and (thus), why they need to buy it.

You’re the expert. If you’ve only been selling cell phones for the past six weeks, chances are good that you already know much more about your product than 99% of your customers. Act like it. If you’ve been living, breathing, dreaming your product as the founding team member of your startup company, you definitely know infinitely more about your product than 99% of your customers. Don’t forget that.

People need to feel understood. Prior to any meeting, you’ll go through as much information as you can find on a company to get a complete picture, just like a doctor would check her patient’s chart before entering the exam room. For example, if your patient was an obese, middle-aged man who’s been smoking Marlbros since before he could drive a car and eating fast food twice a day every day for decades, you’d know he’s going to need heart surgery. To you, this is the obvious solution. However, when he gets on that table, you don’t just jump to that – start by taking his blood pressure, getting cholesterol levels and figuring out where it hurts. End up at “point B,” through his explanation – even though you knew that before laying eyes on him. This is no different in a sales meeting: you’ve determined what product they need but work backward toward that by asking appropriate questions that bring out the problems they’re experiencing, leading to that very solution. It’s a human need to feel understood by others, so placate this. Once they’ve gotten through their story, make a recommendation based on what you’ve heard and your professional opinion. Make it clear they got you to “point B” on their own, even if you had a sense of where you’d end up before calling their receptionist.

Source: Josh Linkner